How is white-nose syndrome affecting bats in Minnesota?White-nose syndrome has decimated many bat populations in the eastern United States. Is it having an impact on Minnesota’s bats?
Editor's note: The following is the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource's "Question of the Week."
Q: White-nose syndrome has decimated many bat populations in the eastern United States. Is it having an impact on Minnesota’s bats?
A: White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a disease that was first observed in New York during the winter of 2006 - 2007. It has since spread across parts of the U.S. and Canada, killing nearly 7 million bats. The disease is often characterized by white fungal growth on the muzzles and wings of hibernating bats and is associated with abnormal behavior, such as flying outside hibernacula during the winter. This causes the bats to use up their stored fat reserves, and as a result they often freeze or starve to death. Minnesota DNR staff biologists conducted surveys during winter 2012 for White-nose syndrome and the disease was not detected. Surveillance will continue this winter.
How you can help Minnesota’s bats?
While the disease appears to only affect bats, the fungus may be transmitted by humans and their gear when they visit affected caves. To avoid possible spread of WNS, observe all cave and mine closures and do not enter caves or mines where bats hibernate. People who have visited caves in states known to have populations of bats with WNS, should decontaminate clothing, footwear and gear.
More information is available on the Minnesota DNR’s White-nose syndrome website www.mndnr.gov/wns.
--Christi Spak, animal survey specialist, Minnesota Biological Survey